One of the most common questions about social media in ministry — “How much time do you spend on Facebook?” — is quickly becoming an irrelevant one.
Today 46 percent of American adults own smart phones and nearly 20 percent of Americans use a tablet or e-reader. They manage multiple social networking profiles, spending upwards of 15 minutes a day on Facebook alone, and carry out many everyday tasks like shopping and banking online.
As the Internet goes mobile and we spend more time there, the line between our digital and face-to-face lives is rapidly blurring.
This integration of our digital and analog lives, whether we choose to embrace or resist it, is changing our lives and, therefore, the practice of ministry, in profound ways.
Today’s ministry leaders are called to be present and minister not only in person, by phone, snail mail and email, but also via text message and social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
I experienced this myself recently when one of my parishioners — I’ll call her Sally — had surgery to remove a tumor from the right side of her brain.
Member participation is absolutely crucial for effective digital ministry, and yet there is very little guidance out there for people in our congregations. Most of the advice focuses on the role of professional ministry leaders.
Member engagement helps puts the "social" in social media by extending the community, amplifying the Gospel message, and helping move away from a one-person one-message model of broadcast media.
Here are five ways members can participate in and extend the digital ministry of their congregations:
After one of my recent workshops on social media, one of the participants confessed that she had money riding on my presentation.
She and a friend had wagered on how long it would take me, a Lutheran pastor, to mention the Printing Press.
She won. It was the third slide.
When Lutherans (and many others) talk about social media, we often take the printing press as our starting point. Its our way of describing the amazing revolution that is taking place in communications today - and our way of thinking about how we harness new forms of media to share God's grace.
However, As Elizabeth Drescher argues in Tweet If You Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation, the parallels between social media and the printing press may end there.
Yes, they both represent a dramatic shift in communications. However, while the printing press marked the dawn of broadcast (or mass) media - communicating your message to many people at one time with little opportunity for comment, today's social networking actually resembles the communal reading of the medieval period, which was more interactive, social, and crowdsourced.
I wonder: how do we get beyond the printing press? How can we engage social media theologically? After all, the printing press and social media are only tools. Where can Lutherans locate social media in our theological framework?
For me, the most compelling theological category is vocation.
Anyone can create a Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel. Almost no one has a plan for how they will use it.
If you want to be successful in social media, you must have a plan.
This post will help you create a plan that fits your congregation. It covers these topics:
- Having Clear Goals
- Being Consistent
- Capturing Your Content
- Automating to Save Time
- Developing a Schedule
- Studying the Statistics
- Where to Begin
Tweet for Your Life!
I've had a disappointing realization about my work in social media. I realized that for all of my thinking and writing about it, and for all of our congregation's efforts in it, what we essentially have, for all our work, is just a really good internal communication system.
Let me explain.
Redeemer and I are active on at least half a dozen forms of social media from Facebook to Foursquare to Wordpress.· We share a lot of content - but we are pretty much only sharing it with each other.· I would guess that current church members comprise 95% of our audience.· People from beyond the congregation probably only make up 5% - and many of those are relatives, friends, and former members of the congregation that live far way.· Okay, maybe its 90/10.
The question is: how do we connect with more people?· How do we get this good stuff in front of people who may like and act on it?
On May 11th, I presented "Getting Started with Social Media" to our conference of local Lutheran pastors, using my congregation as an example of the many ways congregations can use social media. I thought it would be a good idea to document what we do at Redeemer and share it more broadly. So, here are 14 great social media tools that we use in our church and that you can use in yours.
Having a Facebook page is just as important as having a website these days. Create a page and invite your friends to join. It is the absolutely easiest and most popular way to share what's happening in your church. You can post video, pictures, links, and promote events. This is our page. After I post something on our FB Page, I also share it on my personal profile. If you have a blog, you can use a great service called networkedblogs.com to automatically have your blog post listed on your FB Page.
This is a great blogging platform that I use to post and host our sermons, educational materials, and this blog. Wordpress has lots of great designs and tools. It includes free metrics, so you can track how many people visit your blog and what they're reading. You can upload audio files for podcasts is only $15 a year, video for $60. Blogger andTypePad are also popular blogging platforms.
Recent studies show that Twitter is only used by 7% of people in the U.S. It isn't widely adopted yet, but it will be. Twitter is a great way to link to your new blog posts, promote events, and share to things you find interesting - sort of like a personal news feed. The value of Twitter for churches is the ability to share short bursts of news and information. However, most of our people don't use Twitter. One great way to use Twitter is to put a Twitter widget on your church website. It allows you to share important news instantaneously without having to republish your webpage. You can seeour widget on Redeemer's homepage. Twitter can be confusing, if you just view it on the web. I like to use a software program called Tweetie for Mac to manage my Twitter accounts. Tweetdeck is also a great program. When you're ready to take it to the next level, link your Twitter account to bit.ly, a great url-shortening service, and bit.ly will give you statistics on how many people followed your link.